From the President:  Goals for the Future

March 1, 1999

President Scott Cowen

Where are we headed? Over the past year, we have all talked and heard a lot about strategic planning, mission statements, goals and visions. All those things are aimed at answering a single question: Where do we want Tulane University to go in the next few years?

Effective planning takes time, but while we are undergoing the important steps of planning Tulane's future, we can keep moving forward by keeping a few general characteristics in mind as we go about our daily lives. If everything we do contributes to these desirable outcomes, we'll be well on our way along whatever specific path our planning takes us.

What are those outcomes? They had their beginnings last September, when I shared in my convocation address four images I had for Tulane's future. Those images were intentionally lofty, broad and time-independent; they are relevant to everything we do now and in the future. I will not repeat the images here, but for those of you who have forgotten them (or never knew they existed), you can take a refresher course at our strategic-planning Web site (http://

As we think about how to make those images become reality, we can focus on four general outcomes--the desirable characteristics I wrote of earlier--that should influence our every action. These outcomes are my guide in making everyday decisions, setting priorities and developing a long-term strategy for Tulane. I want to share them so you know what motivates me and guides my thinking about Tulane's future.

Outcome 1: Enhance academic quality and standing. Tulane is already one of the very best universities in the United States, no matter how you measure quality. Our task is to make it even better. World-class universities have at least one common characteristic: they have great faculty, staff and students working together in a learning and research environment that focuses on quality and the highest standards. Enhanced quality--not increased size--is the key to our future. Tulane should be the first place of choice for the best and brightest. If we accomplish this goal, our academic standing will continue to rise.

Outcome 2: Be a model university for the 21st century. Higher education is in a state of drastic change as we begin to enter the 21st century. Rapidly advancing technology, economic uncertainties, changing demographics--all are combining to create the need for great change in the academy. But where there is change, there also is opportunity, and within this atmosphere of change is the chance for Tulane University to establish itself as a model for what higher education can be in this new century. To do this, we must be able to adapt to change quickly, be more willing to experiment, and re-evaluate and make adjustments in our operations. Speed, adaptability and creativity--always with an eye to academic quality and standing--will be the keys to success for 21st-century universities. Tulane must develop these characteristics if we are to thrive and make the progress necessary to secure a future among the very best universities anywhere.

Outcome 3: Be accessible. Tulane University must be accessible to all students who meet our academic standards, regardless of their ability to pay for their education. We must also be diverse, in the broadest sense of the word, and create an open and tolerant environment in which people are free to live, learn and exercise their freedom of expression without fear of harassment and ridicule. Tulane must be user-friendly and accessible to those who want to be part of our community.

Outcome 4: Be financially secure. Tulane University must garner the resources needed to be financially secure and flexible in order to support its academic mission and attract and retain the very best faculty, staff and students. This will require increasing our endowment, our levels of funded research and our annual giving from all sources. It also will require us to manage all resources efficiently and effectively at all times. Financial resources should never be barriers to progress.

I hope as we go through our daily routines, no matter the task, we continually ask ourselves how our actions are contributing to these outcomes. If we can see the benefits, we are well on our way to a very bright future. If we can't, we should stop, rethink what we are doing, and plot a new course. Anything less hinders the progress of this wonderful institution. --Scott S. Cowen

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